Guest Post on Reviewing

Guest Post: Book Reviewing

This was originally posted on The Eternal Scribbler and then re-posted from there on Dan Alatorre- AUTHOR:

Being a book reviewer is something far more rewarding than I ever imagined.  Being able to read books and talk/write about how great they are is something I’ve only been doing for a short time but it’s so rewarding, especially when you find a gem from a new and unheard of author.

For me reviewing starts with reading.  I can never read more than two books at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction (memoirs are like fiction for me).  This is because I’m one of those people who loves to get completely absorbed by a book and I couldn’t do it if I had several going at once.

Once I’ve read a book I get to writing my review that same day or the next if I finished the book late at night.  I have to write up my review right away not only because I might forget something if I waited but I just get this urgent need to write it and I can’t move on to a new book until I do.

If anyone’s ever read my reviews you’ll notice I write a book blurb type opening.  I like to write the sort of reviews I’d love to read and it’s especially important on a blog, where the blurb isn’t always available, to let people know what the book is about.  Writing this opening to my reviews can sometimes take up to 20 minutes of my time as I think of the right one.  After that it’s onto the main part of my review.

Writing the review isn’t too hard as I basically try to give all the information I’d like to know.  I hate reading spoilers in reviews (sorry fellow reviewers who write them) so I never include any which can sometimes be hard but I think it’s very important.  I don’t think authors want the little secrets of their books revealed before you’ve read them and I know it makes for better reading if I am surprised by something that happens.

I like to include a little information about the suitability of the book, use of swear words, sex, drugs, etc.  I’m not overly sensitive about books and read a wide range from kids to very dark ones with adult themes but like with movies I like to know if what I’m about to read is going to have some horrific violence, you’d be surprised how deceptive some book covers can be.

Regardless of what I think at the end of reading a book I always try to note the positives and  any negatives.  Sometimes I won’t like a particular book or it doesn’t fit my sense of humour, etc. but that doesn’t make me give a bad review.  If there’s anything I like, or could see someone else liking about the book, I’ll note that in the review.  At the end of the day I hope my reviews are both fun to read and can help people decide if they’d like to try a book.

There’s never a clear formula for what will make a great book.  Books are subjective, what one person finds amazing another might not, but there are some things that can help make a fiction book easier to read and more engaging for me:

The first is the most obvious but it’s amazing how many books I come across that aren’t proofread enough.  Even some traditionally published books can have errors in them.  While it may not seem like a big thing, and it doesn’t often bother me, it can really spoil a good book if every few pages there’s obvious grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors, not to mention it doesn’t help the author’s image.

The second thing which for me makes books harder to read is unnecessary scenes.  I love reading both long and descriptive books as well as shorter ones with briefer descriptions.  Regardless of which type of book it is though lots of books I’ve read have had useless scenes in them which do little for the overall plot and become tedious to read.  One fantasy book I read had scenes showing the troubled relationships between characters which spanned over half of the book before it got to any of the main plot action.  It was clear after the first few chapters how bad the tension was between characters and about half of those scenes didn’t need to be there.

The third thing I find important is characters.   Whether that character is human or something else I want to be able to recognise the character and connect with them somehow.  I’ve read plenty of books where characters had no defining personality or physical traits, or very little in their description that it was easy to mix them up with others.  I’ve put a book down before and when coming back to it there were so many similar characters that I had to backtrack through chapters to remind myself who was who.  It doesn’t take much to make characters stick in your mind but as long as they look or behave differently to each other (unless your story needs them to act alike) then it’s easy to keep reading a book.  I find a good way is to get someone else to read your book and then describe a character without using their name.  If your reader can identify who someone is from just their personality or looks then they ‘ll enjoy the book more.

Connecting with a character is important too.  It doesn’t mean I have to like a character but the good books make you feel something for each of the individuals, whether that’s liking them or hating them.  One mistake I sometimes come across, which makes connecting with characters harder, happened in a novel I recently read where the main character went from being very pious and a teetotal type to getting really drunk in a tavern.  While sometimes it makes sense that someone would act this way, the book didn’t show this.  There was no good reason for the character to change all of a sudden and it’s very important that no matter who or what they are, their actions have to make sense.

Reviewing is so rewarding, not only do I get to read some amazing books, sometimes before other people, but I also get to shine a light on some amazing and very talented authors.  The most amazing and best thing about book reviewing isn’t getting ‘likes’ for my reviews, though they are very much appreciated and feel free to like my posts ;), the best thing is when somebody’s told me that they loved a book I recommended.  Knowing I’ve helped someone find a book they loved, and helped spread word of that author, well, that’s definitely the best part of book reviewing!